Performance Feedback

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by Dan Amos

There are few things in life I dislike more than watermelon, chalkboard screeching, and performance feedback. I can decline the watermelon, and whiteboards have pretty much replaced chalkboards, but they keep making new ways to do feedback. At work, it’s a semiannual recurrence, whether I want it or not.

But, there’s a reason for it. Without feedback, we tend to not improve. While I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on my world, I’m continually shown that there are other perspectives on things and lots of stuff to which I am just totally oblivious.

As a body, we at Elim are committed to making disciples—passionate followers of Jesus who seek to know God, grow together in Christ, and go and serve South Hill and beyond. We have a staff, a building, a budget, and people—so how are we doing? We can ask ourselves or a few and see part of the picture. But to really know, we need to get feedback from as many as possible.

Feedback isn’t just a general question about how you are doing personally, or how we are doing as a body. It’s more specific, and a team has put together some questions designed to make each of us think and give useful feedback. The answers to these questions will help assess our progress in the following:

  • Worshipping our Father
  • Maturing in our faith
  • Connecting as disciples in community
  • Reaching out to our unsaved neighbors and friends

Community groups and Bible studies are being asked to work through questions on these four areas. Regular attenders who are not currently in one of these groups will be asked to meet with a small group of others to give feedback. Someone will take notes, and all the notes will be collected and reviewed and studied for themes and things to work on. The idea is to keep moving forward as disciples. Complacency is not an option.

On another note, Tom Chase just finished six years as an elder and is taking his constitutionally-required break from that service. For the last few years he has been the vice-chairman of the board, and last year he led us as the chairman. He served sacrificially and with passion. He did not seek the position, but he humbly accepted it, to our great benefit. Thank you, Tom; and thank you, Corrie, for enabling him to serve so well!

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Worship and the Best Fruit Salad

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By Nate Champneys

If you ask 10 different people the question, “What makes a good fruit salad?” you will undoubtedly get 10 different answers. “Oh, I love banana in mine!” “No, I hate bananas! You have to have blueberries!” “You have to have Miracle Whip in it!” “No, I can’t stand Miracle Whip!” And so on.

I know, because I asked this question at the last extended-family dinner we had together. But, in order for you to have a good time with your family during a meal, must everyone agree on the contents of the fruit salad? Probably not.

I like to compare worship to a fruit salad. What is “good worship” to you? What are the circumstances under which you are able to most easily connect with God? The answer to this question may be very different, depending on who you ask.

I recently was privileged to represent Elim at the Evangelical Free Church of America worship leaders’ gathering at EFCA headquarters in Minneapolis. It was such an amazing time for so many reasons, but one of my favorite things was being able to worship together with other worship leaders from across the country. It could have been my least favorite part, if God hadn’t helped me get out of my own way in connecting with Him.

As we started the gathering, there were about 30 of us in the room, with a group of musicians and singers up front leading. They handed us a booklet containing a liturgy of readings and songs. Sadly, an attitude of disappointment began to form within me. At Elim, we tend to not do a lot of traditional, liturgical things in our worship, so it’s something that I’m not used to. Thus, when they handed me the book, I was skeptical.

The guy who was leading the worship time began to play and sing, and I immediately began thinking critical thoughts. It can be very hard for me when I am at another church or at a concert to focus on anything other than the tech they are using or what chords they are playing, because I deal with all those things on a daily basis.

But at that moment it was as if God said to me, “Nathan, will you stop? Stop critiquing. Stop focusing on all the instruments. Stop focusing on the everything but Me, and just be with Me in this time. Just be with Me!” And at that moment I let go of all the analysis and the critique and merely began to simply be.

What followed was one of the sweetest times of worship I have ever experienced in my life. The funny thing is, the ambience of the room was still not ideal. The flourescent lights were very bright. The sound wasn’t perfect. The instrumentalists made a few mistakes here and there. The songs were not even all songs I knew, nor were they particularly my favorites … BUT, it didn’t matter. Because I was with Jesus!

I have been asking the question, “What is worship and what are we really doing here?” God has continued to break out of the box that I’ve put Him in. I have realized that the biggest barrier between us and a close, intimate time with God is not the lighting, the music, the strength of the vocalists, or the volume level. Instead, it is what I see when I look in the mirror. Me! I have heard the phrase, “We should be able to worship God no matter what the music is like.” It’s a simple thing to say, but it’s much more difficult to follow. I have said it myself. But I don’t think I really believed it.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul talks about the heart we are to have. He says, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

We will never have the same passions or the same preferences, but we can have one mind, as Paul says. We can have a mindset of selflessness and the heart of a servant. We may not agree on what is the best style of music or what color the lights should be, or even what songs to sing, but we do agree that Jesus is worthy of praise, that He is the object of our praise and that He modeled humility and selflessness to us and has asked us to follow Him.

So I challenge you, the next time you’re in a corporate worship time and you find yourself thinking negatively about the songs, the music, or the lighting, ask Jesus, “Lord will You help me to just be with You, worship You, and let my heart honor You during this time?”

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

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Just Because He Is

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By Tom Chase

Remember the story of Job, a very rich man, had everything he needed and more? Then trouble struck him and he lost everything except his life. His riches, his family, his reputation, and even his health — all were gone.

Job’s response when he found out?

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

Job 1:20-21 NLT

I have to say that I am totally blown away by a man whose response to trouble like this is to worship God. Wow! Really?

I am pretty sure that is not our typical response, and I know it is not mine. Yet what bothers me is that it should be. Over the past several weeks I have been pondering Job’s response. I have been checking his response compared to the things that cause me (and, I believe, sometimes us) to praise God. It seems to me that we have become really good at praising God for what He has done … and we should do that. But I also believe that we (and I) need to become really good at worshiping God because He is.

There is so much to appreciate about our creator God. Scripture tells us that He is glorious … that He is beyond compare … that there is no one else like Him. We do see some of that in the things He does for us. It gives us a glimpse into His character. But I have to say that He is worthy of our praise because He is — not just because of what He has done for us (or me). As I continue to think this through, I have been finding myself in awe of the person of God and I have found joy in God in praising Him simply for Him. He is our greatest “Thing,” and not because He gives us stuff, but because He is.

If you are feeling like your praise has been heavy on the “because-of-what-God-has-done” side, take some time and just praise Him for Him and give Him glory!

If a song will encourage you in this way, “Just Because You Are” by Philip Sandifer has been an encouragement for me.

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Getting Rid of Life-Shrinking Parasites

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Reprinted with permission from WholeLifeWorship.com (courtesy Dr. Doug Lee)

microscopic-view-of-a-malaria-parasite-everett

Whole-life worship is living the “large life.” God has called us to live a “large” life for Him. He wants to give us His blessings, His power, His love, His forgiveness, His joy, His hope, His peace, and His transformation. These are all LARGE things. They, if we will receive them, enable us to live ABUNDANT lives (John 10:10; John 15); more than that, we will also be able to live INFLUENCING lives – where others look and take notice (Matt. 5:14-16).

But there are parasites ingrained in our fallen nature that want to kill the seeds of God’s largeness from bearing fruit. These “life-shrinkers” are the thoughts, attitudes and actions that make our lives small, puny and petty. They are in direct opposition to living out “whole-life worship” to God. I am reminded of when Jesus could not do any miracles in a particular Galilean village because of their lack of faith – they were living lives dominated by life-shrinkers!

Although life-shinkers are common to all, everyone has their own customized set of life-shrinkers that specialize in short-circuiting the life of Christ in them. Mine are: impatience with others, a critical spirit, greed, envy, guilt and fear. These life-shrinkers are constantly at work to steal away God’s largeness of life. Here’s how they work in some not-so-hypothetical situations:

I notice that someone else is flourishing (ministry, financial, relational). I have a choice of rejoicing in their blessing or becoming envious. If I choose the envy route it leads me down a life-shrinking path: discrediting them, becoming resentful, joining others who are also envious, passing on juicy gossip, etc. In the process I become a much smaller, limited person.

A supervisor at work has the gall to reprimand me about something that he/she is always guilty of doing. What nerve! I have the choice to either look at the reprimand objectively and prayerfully or to harbor bitter feelings toward my supervisor. If I choose to harbor bitterness and its “life shrinking” powers go immediately into effect. I spend my hours at work watching for their every mistake, stacking up my case against them, and looking for the opportunity to get even.

The world likes to call Christians “a bunch of hypocrites.” That’s because many Christians suffer a credibility gap – what we say about ourselves does not match how we live. I believe this is due to the fact that, although we have the BIGNESS of God in our lives, our day-to-day decisions are more influenced by the “life-shrinkers” within us. The Apostle Paul tells us to put to death those things that “shrink” our lives (Galatians 5:16-21, Ephesians 4:17-5:21).

What has helped me put these life-shinkers to death is to recognize them for what they are when they come to me. When a thought or attitude wants me to take action or to react in speech, I’ll say to myself, “That is such a small way to think. C’mon, you were called to bigger things than to react in that way.” Then I will pray, “God, I die to this way of thinking. Please lead me in Your path of right thought, speech and action.” And EVERY TIME I do this, the thought or attitude dies. Every time! I must say that it is a lot easier to do this when you nip these things at the bud (it’s a lot harder, but not impossible, to overcome the “life-shinkers” when we always yield to the desires of our fallen nature).

So live large in whole-life worship by getting rid of the “life-shrinkers” with the help of Christ’s grace and power. Then you’ll have another reason to sing His praises!

Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy. Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within.

(“Refiner’s Fire” by Brian Doerksen)

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Reflections From the Shoe

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Shoe

By Nate Champneys

“Pride goes before destruction.” Solomon said it perfectly with his God-given wisdom. And it amazes me, when you look at all the sin that so easily entangles us, how so much of it is rooted in pride. When I look at my own life, the sin of pride is vastly prevalent, and it is that sin of pride that I just can’t seem to get rid of. So many times I get into an argument with my wife, then it isn’t until later that I see my pride clearly. I have to say, “Honey, I’m so sorry. This really is simply my pride.”

I get so frustrated by my sin sometimes. I just look up and say to God, “Why aren’t you finished with me yet?!?” When you consider your own sin, isn’t it amazing that God still cares about us? The Psalmist says this:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

When you consider how small, insignificant, pitiful, and sinful we are compared to the glory, wonder, size and complexity of the universe that our creator God holds on the tip of His pinky, I can’t help but ask, “Why hasn’t God just stepped on us and squashed us already?” “Why doesn’t He simply put us out of our misery?” It makes me feel like bacteria on the bottom of a massive shoe when I compare myself to His glory.

I mentioned this in a prayer time at church a few weeks ago, and later on during this prayer time, a friend prayed: “Thank you Jesus for coming down to the bottom of this shoe!” Wow. That really puts things in perspective. The God of glory humbled himself and essentially became the equivalent of a bacterium on the bottom of a shoe and gave his life for us, the bacteria on the bottom of that shoe. Remarkable! It really is impossible to truly understand the love of God until you grasp to some degree the majesty and glory of God and are then able to see the heights that Jesus stepped down from.

Now THAT is the exact opposite of pride. That is the God we serve! 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “Love is not proud.“ Pride is so contrary to who God is, yet it is one of those acceptable sins we excuse, even though it so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1). We serve a God who is so glorious that in the same way He spoke the universe into existence, He could cause everything to go back to nothingness in an instant and simply start over. And yet he is mindful of us. God is the opposite of pride when he has every right to be prideful. This is love: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

The Creator God, who is so far beyond our comprehension, emptied Himself and “became a bacterium” in order to give His life for you. I don’t know about you, but this lavish love is the only thing that truly puts my pride into perspective.

“Thank you, Jesus, for coming to the bottom of this shoe!

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

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Be a Worship Leader

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By Nate Champneys

There are a lot of “Christianese” words that get thrown around within the Church. Some of these words are very frustrating because the true meanings and the normal definitions of these words are two different things or are, at minimum, incomplete. Take the word “worship” for example. We use this word a lot in the context of group singing during our services, and so the word “worship” has almost become synonymous with “corporate singing.” We know, however, that worship is a blanket term referring to “declaring worth” of something or someone, and we use it in the context of declaring worth to God. We also know that this is more than singing on a Sunday morning; it includes every aspect of our lives.

A word that has become commonplace in our church culture is the term, “Worship Leader.” We generally use this term to refer to the person on stage on Sunday morning who is in charge. The longer I have been a staff worship leader though, the more this term makes me uneasy. I lead week after week after week, but I have come to realize that I don’t have nearly as much power to lead people as someone sitting in the front row of the seats (or the back row for that matter). What I mean is that I think people are more influenced by other people in the congregation than they are by the people on the platform. This has led me to ask the question, “Who is actually leading?” Many Sundays I’ve watched from the platform as we as the “leaders” are very expressive in our praise while people in the seats are not. I have also watched a single person in the congregation who stands and raises their hands be the first of a wave moving through the congregation.

I have come to realize that everyone is a leader and a follower at the same time. As human beings it is our nature to look around at what everyone else is doing and follow suit, while at the same time everyone is looking at you as well. I once was leading morning worship (there’s that term again), and watched a woman who was new to the congregation sitting a few rows back with her eyes closed, and her hands raised. Throughout the whole song set, she was very expressive. This was in a church that was from the Dutch Reformed background and was typically not very “open” in expression of worship. This Sunday, however, was different. I watched as many people through the service seemed to become more expressive. I went up to her afterword and said, “Thank you for leading worship this morning.” I told her that I knew she hadn’t been doing it for a thank you, but for the praise and glory of God. Yet when people in the congregation express praise to God, it is contagious.

What you do affects others. Period. I want to give you a charge: be a worship leader. You don’t have to be up on the platform to lead people. Do you want to bring God glory? Do you want to point people to Him? It’s really simple. Recognize that people are following you. I’m not talking about putting on a show for others. I am talking about authentic worship with the understanding that people are going to follow you either way. Are you going to lead them closer to Jesus, or farther away?

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